Saturday, September 03, 2005

Wearing the wind

Yesterday (Friday), I made arrangements to meet P-Doug downtown after work to go out to Hanlan's Point and splash around in the altogether. Won't be warm enough to do this much longer. So, about 4 PM I set out for the subway.

I didn't have my Rebel XT with me this time, but I decided instead to bring my Aiptek Pocket DV II. It's just this little 1.3 megapixel still camera-slash-video camera that I picked up on a whim about a year ago for $70. The images are fairly low quality, but it fits in your pocket and I've found it useful a hundred times for taking a quick picture of something funny or scenic I wanted to remember and show other people, so I can't complain.

Also, I took my MP3 player with me. I could have brought a book to read on the trip, but I found more comfort in the warm, droning, and informative voice of Al Franken reading his recent best seller Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. I picked this up last weekend at a used book store for $14; it's an 8-CD set that, when converted to 128 kb/s MP3s, nicely fits on a single disk. In this case, I transferred about 128 MB of the end of the book to my player, and listened to the balance of the book on the trip. Man, it's astounding the amount of wool the right wing has pulled over American eyes... but I digress.

...Okay, more digression, since this is my blog, right? :) When I was a kid, I really didn't like Al Franken. He was doing that "Let's call the 1980s 'The Al Franken Decade'" bit on Saturday Night Live, and for some reason, that really got up my nose and I wrote the guy off as a pompous jerk. Now to be fair, I was 12, maybe 13 at the time, and I guess spotting self-deprecating humour wasn't my long suit yet. Anyway, years went by, and then he showed up on SNL again, this time as Stewart Smalley. I can't explain why, but my attitude changed. Stewart's a frustrating character and his neuroses are essentially impenetrable, but he's appealing somehow and I guess it must have dawned on me that to create a personna like that, Al Franken had to be someone with a keen sense of observation and a fair amount of compassion... both of which are fairly extroverted traits that put the lie to the "Al Franken Decade" self-absorption. Anyway, I started listening to the guy, and now I think he's great. There you go, Al. Some jerk you don't even know in a different country likes you. Bet that made your day. :)

Now then... where was I? Oh, yes, on the subway. Well, I got to Union Station just before five, and I headed down Bay Street to the ferry terminal. Along the way I passed a guy playing the bagpipes. I discreetly took out the Pocket DV and started to video him. Or so I thought. The damn thing was in menu mode, and I got nothing. I was too embarrassed to give it a second pass, so we're all SOL on this one. ...Of course, given it was the bagpipes... maybe that's just as well.

I made it to the terminal just after five, bought my ticket, and sat down to wait for P-Doug. P-Doug had assured me earlier in the day that one of the trips to Hanlan's was leaving at 5:30. I listened to Al Franken talk about the ramifications of Bush's phase-out of the inheritance tax, and the minutes ticked by. 5:25, no P-Doug . I started thinking, well, do I go, and wait for him on the beach, or just sit here and we catch the next one? But of course, as scripted, the man arrived at the last moment, and we caught the ferry. I had noticed that the gate this time didn't just say "HANLAN", but "WARD HANLAN". I mentioned this to P-Doug, remarking that a well-dressed woman we saw in our line-up holding an HP printer seemed an unlikely sojourner to a nude beach, but he seemed unconcerned, which reassured me, and we caught the same ferry as last time.

Which promptly headed for Ward's Island.

P-Doug noticed it first. Me, I was content to take the ride. You know, picture your dog with his head out the car window, panting, as you speed towards a tornado or something. I was still waiting for the ferry to make its turn when he started cursing and drew my attention to our route. He voluntarily blamed himself because he'd misread the schedule, but I personally don't hold it against him. It was an easy mistake to make, and even having spotted the confusing sign, I was happy enough to board the wrong boat, so I can hardly point the finger.


The way we weren't

Anyway, we arrived at Ward's Island about twenty to five or thereabouts. Ward's is one of two harbour islands on which people still live (the other is Algonquin). Well, there was really nothing for it but to start walking. You know, they don't look like much on the map, but the Toronto Islands really are a sizeable little archipelago for a lake. Using a photo I took last time of a map display at Hanlan's Point, I can show you where it all happened. The red number "1" is the ferry terminal. "2" is the landing at Hanlan's Point, where we wanted to be. "3" is the landing on Ward's Island, where we actually wound up. And "4" is the sanctus sanctorum of the in puris naturalibus set, the nude beach. The red line drawn from "3" to "4" is the route we had to walk. I actually measured it out on a map this morning. As the crow flies, it's about the equivalent distance of walking from Parliament Street to Bathurst Street. But in actuality, because it's not a straight line, it's more like the distance from Bayview Avenue to Bathurst. More concisely: about 4.3 km. That's just a little shy of three miles. It took us 45 minutes, but we saw some really beautiful scenery along the way. The people who live on the islands have to really bust their balls to get back and forth to their jobs, shopping, movies... anything, really. But it's worth it, obviously. They're living in a Norman Rockwell painting (except the flags have the maple leaf instead of the stars and stripes).

One of the things we passed was the Ward Island fire station. The clock was extremely interesting. It features human faces at the cardinal points. Some of them, maybe all of them, look aboriginal. Toronto was a meeting place (supposedly, that's what "Toronto" actually means) for various native tribes long before the British made it their colonial capital. The people who lived hereabouts before the Europeans, Africans, and Asians arrived were of the Algonquin and Iroquois linguistic families, and there was significant conflict between them from time to time. Control of the trade here has always been important, as long as humans have lived in the Americas.


Ward's Island fire station

Eventually we got to the east end, and nearing the beach, P-Doug pulled me aside on a short cut that also took us past the Gibraltar Point lighthouse, where I got this shot. I'm surprised and a little disappointed to realize, in reviewing my shots, that I didn't photograph the lighthouse itself, just this plaque. Oh, well. You've probably seen a lighthouse, and I doubt I'd be mentioning it at all if not for the sensational story attached to it. As P-Doug tells it, the lighthouse keeper in 1815, J. P. Rademuller, was also a bootlegger. The story goes that one night, two soldiers from the nearby barracks showed up in hopes of procuring some. Supposedly, he told them he had only one bottle to sell them. They didn't believe him, killed him, ransacked the place, and it turned out to be the case. So, they buried the body nearby. Eventually, the assistant keeper discovered a patch of disturbed earth, which yielded the late Mr. Rademuller to the authorities. The offenders were court martialed and hanged, so I'm told… buzz on the sites I’ve seen is that aside from the keeper’s disappearance, the rest is likely apocryphal. But it’s a good story. So these guys actually killed someone to get booze. Now I don't feel so bad for driving 10 minutes out of my way to get to an LCBO that actually stocks the rum I like.


A story of light, liquor, and losers

When we got to the beach, it was very windy. Cloud cover was skating in from the north. The water was very active; lots of tall breakers. I stepped in right away, and the water was pretty cool... nowhere near as warm as last weekend (incendentally, you can learn a lot about the water temperature of Lake Ontario as time passes here; turns out it was 58 or 60 degrees Fahrenheit while we were there).


The weather started getting rough... the nudist beach was toss'd...


Not bad for a $70 P.O.S. camera, eh?


Trust me, there is a cityscape in there somewhere...

We decided to head south along the beach, and I made the journey wading at the water's edge. I noticed the warmth of the water picking up as we went. We finally stopped at a picnic table near the water at the north end of the beach. There was hardly anyone on the beach... it was a Friday, 6:30 in the evening, so we mostly had the place to ourselves. I stripped off and headed in. It was, I guess, about the same temperature as the first time I was there. Took a little getting used to. Out past the first sandbar, it was cooler (but I really didn't notice that till I retreated to the sandbar later). P-Doug came in too, and we splashed around and talked while watching the clouds, the sunset, someone flying a kite, and a guy parasurfing. As time passed we made our way back from neck-deep to the sandbar, which is knee-deep and where the water, I noticed, was considerably warmer (after 15 minutes, my fingers had started getting numb). We both sat around on it for a while, letting the surf crash over us. I guess we were in the water somewhere between half an hour and forty-five minutes. Finally went in, dried off, and just lounged on the picnic table, watching the sunset and the guy parasurfing. He actually passed right in front of us at one point, and I took the opportunity to video his approach. As he passed us, his sail came within about ten feet of smacking into us. I'm hoping to convert some of the frames into stills to illustrate this. If I can't, you'll just have to take my word for it. It was a pretty interesting moment. I think I can safely say that it is, without a doubt, the most thrilling event I have ever filmed while sitting naked outdoors in public. At least so far.





Sorry, no blood spurts. :)

It was around 8 PM when we decided to get going. I was really hungry by then, and it was beginning to get dark. We missed the 8:15 ferry back by about ten minutes, and were forced to wait till 9. I was in shorts and a t-shirt, and the wind was just cool enough to make it slightly unpleasant. In the meantime, P-Doug used his cell to call his wife, G, and arranged for her to meet us at the LBCO down on Queen's Quay (this is a coincidence... we are not colossal boozehounds, I swear).


Eerie green open Skydome, spooookyyy!!

From there, we headed uptown to Satay On the Road for Thai food. That was my own suggestion, partly prompted by a recent recommendation I made to a commenter to my previous Hanlan's Point posting. I had the hot and sour soup, to which I added chili oil and soy sauce... fiery! and curried beef and rice. It was delicious. The bill for me came to just over $18 with tax. I put down a $20, expecting change; taking the loonie and putting down a toonie would have put the tip over 15%. But the girl never brought the change. She just assumed this was her tip. This was unfortunate for two reasons. One, it pisses me off. What it had been a $50? Would she have assumed her tip was 31 bucks and change? I hope not... so which assume that in this case? Secondly, since there was no opportunity to make change for myself, I had no way to leave a more substantial tip (at least, in a range I felt justified). And at that point, I was hardly inclined too. So I look cheap, and she's out a fair tip. Her presumption shames us both. Sorry to end on a sour note. Ah well, when you add it all up, it was a nice evening.

14 comments:

James said...

Since you mentioned the Rebel XT, I should let you know that we kept your comments and advice in mind when we went camera shopping last week. In the end we went with the 20D -- the 5 fps burst mode sold Lori on it immediately. So far it's been a great camera, though I still wish it were lighter!

Thanks again for your comments on the Rebel.

Lone Primate said...

This series of second-gen CMOS Canons is great. I don't think I'll be upgrading until there's a direct 1:1 35mm ration for the exposure size relative to the focal length. For now, these things are terrific. Glad to be of service, Tzoq. ;)

katherine said...

Something to aspire to ... photographing while nude in a public place. : ) I've had one experience with nudity in public, at a hot springs in New Mexico. Hiked up a mountain with a friend to hang out in the springs, only he didn't tell me it was clothing optional (though he clearly knew and was waiting to see what I would do). So, I promptly stripped and got in the water. One of the more memorable and fun things I've experienced in my life. Thanks for sharing your stories!

Lone Primate said...

Something to aspire to ... photographing while nude in a public place. : )

Hi, Katherine! It was nowhere near as difficult as I always imagined it would be. It was liberating...

So, I promptly stripped and got in the water. One of the more memorable and fun things I've experienced in my life.

It would seem you understand. :) To be honest, I don't see any reason people shouldn't be able to be casually undraped in hot weather anyway. This is what we look like; this is what we are. But, we're just not there yet as a society. So, at least we have places like Hanlan's Point.

katherine said...

If I ever make it out to Toronto I'll have to make a point to go there. : ) All best!

katherine said...

As an aside, I like the footprint photo very much ... I have a similar one of mine in sand. -K.

Lone Primate said...

As an aside, I like the footprint photo very much ... I have a similar one of mine in sand. -K.

Well, thanks! :) It was from an excursion to a creek not too far away early in the summer. I'm a barefoot hiker; all things considered, it was really "me".

katherine said...

Wait, wait, wait, wait ... you're a barefoot hiker? Is that safe for your feet? What about sharp objects? Give something here ... you can't just throw a statement out like that and leave me hanging. ; )

Lone Primate said...

Wait, wait, wait, wait ... you're a barefoot hiker? Is that safe for your feet? What about sharp objects? Give something here ... you can't just throw a statement out like that and leave me hanging. ; )

Yup, honest to God, there is such a thing. It's not entirely uncommon; a lot of people hike barefoot. While I like hiking for its own sake -- the sights, the sounds, the scents -- you're really missing an entire dimension of the experience if you're not feeling the ground. The range of sensations is amazing. I'd compare it to the difference between black and white photography and colour photography -- one captures tone and mood, but the latter plugs into reality, immediacy.

If you try it, you'll be surprised just how accommodating the forest floor actually is. But really, we shouldn't be surprised... after all, we were built for it, like every other animal... just because we're smarter than the rest doesn't change the basics of our physiology. The forest is covered with leaf litter, loam, clay, mud, fallen pine needles (actually amazingly soft and wonderful to walk on; paths should be "paved" with them annually), streams, grass, sun-warmed patches of sand... the real challenges come when you encounter manmade structures: hot pavement, rough cement, and the least welcoming of all, gravel -- always uneven to the distribution of your weight, and often sharp. It's never much fun to walk on.

I've been hiking barefoot for a couple of years now. Since the spring, I've been cut three times, and without exception, I was wearing my sandals when it happened. Typically, something that would otherwise lie flat was wedged up between the sandal and the sole of my foot and driven into it. When you walk barefoot, your natural inclination is to step down, not sweep or scuff, so you tend to press things down, and immediately lift your foot again if you find the footfall not to your liking (it's much easier to wade in a river if you can feel the bottom, for instance). It's magnificent. I don't know for sure, but I suppose I walked about twenty-five miles barefoot this summer, in the woods, the parks, and just casually in the neighbourhood. It's unusual, but no one's made me feel uncomfortable about it, and let's face it, it's not exactly as daring as going topless. :)

katherine said...

Okay, you got me there. Going topless is more daring than walking without shoes. And now that you've introduced the concept of barefoot hiking to me ... I'll have to try it. I have a feeling that when you're hiking barefoot you're less on a mission to get somewhere and more in the moment. Paying more attention to every single thing. Which I imagine heightens the experience immensely.

Too bad Toronto is 4,000 km away from Seattle ... I'd be suggesting a barefoot hike right about now. : )

Lone Primate said...

I have a feeling that when you're hiking barefoot you're less on a mission to get somewhere and more in the moment.

Oh, indesputably. I find that while I might have a destination in mind, the real destination is the journey itself. While it's not always possible in the early spring or autumn, when it's warm I like to dress lightly to hike. In shorts, you're absolutely undaunted by the prospect of crossing a stream; in fact, you welcome it, in a way you never would shod. Then, a stream is an obstacle. Barefoot, it's an invitation. It's amazing the shift in attitude toward nature... you're participating instead of coping or challenging. I've also found that, where appropriate, it's freed me even further. If the water's deep enough, or I happen across a secluded glade, I've often stripped and indulged myself in the moment. There's something magical in being able to lie back dappled in sunlight or feel the water rush past your body... and you know, it's nothing more or less than the birthright of every one of us. It's a real shame so few people take advantage of it. But I can highly recommend it.

Too bad Toronto is 4,000 km away from Seattle ... I'd be suggesting a barefoot hike right about now. : )

There are some terrific places for it around here that I'd be quit to point out. Ah, but the Pacific Northwest. To me, that's Barefoot Hiking Central. :) Rainforest climate, hills, mountains, streams, millenia-old forests. I really envy you that; I've mused more than once about moving to Vancouver. I really hope you'll avail yourself. :)

katherine said...

I love the story from your post entitled, "A day of wild contrasts in the city in the trees". It's magical! At least what my imagination conjured from your descriptive words seemed magical. : ) Thanks for sharing it.

I'm thinking about where the best place to have my inaugural barefoot hike would be ... I'm a bit apprehensive about it. Mostly worried about any creatures that my find my bare skin an invitation to make themselves at home. A fear I'll have to overcome.

Thanks for the comments on my blog. Answers to your questions are awaiting you there. -K.

Lone Primate said...

I love the story from your post entitled, "A day of wild contrasts in the city in the trees". It's magical!

Thank you -- it's really nice that the span of the experience can be appreciated. I thought it was a wonderful day of extremes. People fortunate enough to live in proximity to nature owe it to themselves to have such a day every so often, in my opinion. :)

I'm thinking about where the best place to have my inaugural barefoot hike would be ... I'm a bit apprehensive about it.

If there's a park you know well, a place you've explored before, I think that would be your best bet. I have explored places I haven't been before while barefoot, but I started out, and mostly continue, with places I had a general sense of. I think you'll find autumn to be a good time, so long as it's warm a while. Kicking through leaf litter makes you feel like a kid again.

Mostly worried about any creatures that my find my bare skin an invitation to make themselves at home.

I think they should take you to dinner and a movie first myself. :)

Myself, I encountered mosquitos, at least through July. No movies; I was the dinner. I learned to carry repellant and apply it. It's a good idea to carry some with you, just in case you do find an opportunity to go all-natural.

Thanks for the comments on my blog. Answers to your questions are awaiting you there. -K.

I'll see you there. :) Incidentally, I'm meeting my buddy Paul downtown this evening for one last kick at the can at Hanlan's Point before the weather really starts to go south. Hopefully it'll be a good time and we don't get rained out.

katherine said...

People fortunate enough to live in proximity to nature owe it to themselves to have such a day every so often, in my opinion. :)

Agreed.

I think they should take you to dinner and a movie first myself. :)

I can only hope. Or ice cream ... something!

I'll see you there. :) Incidentally, I'm meeting my buddy Paul downtown this evening for one last kick at the can at Hanlan's Point before the weather really starts to go south. Hopefully it'll be a good time and we don't get rained out.

I know there will be a story : ) ... can't wait to read it. Until then, I hope the expedition went well and the rain was ... rained out (Careful now, don't split your side).

So you know, I did see the comment from the June post on my blog ...